Le Lai de la Fonteinne (Je ne cesse de prier) (Guillaume de Machaut)

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  • (Posted 2018-12-21)   CPDL #52691:       
Editor: Raymond Nagem (submitted 2018-12-21).   Score information: Letter, 18 pages, 262 kB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: Edited from the text and music in Patricia A. Turcic, "Words and Music in Communion: An Analysis of Guillaume de Machaut's 'Le Lay de la Fonteinne' in Cultural Context" (M.A. diss., University of Maine, 2001), https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/etd/486/. Transposed up a perfect fourth for three equal voices. Barring, beaming, and musica ficta editorial. This is intended as a practical performing edition. MusicXML source file is in compressed .mxl format.

General Information

Title: Le Lai de la Fonteinne "Je ne cesse de prier"
Composer: Guillaume de Machaut
Lyricist: Guillaume de Machaut

Number of voices: 3/1vv   Voicing: 3 equal voices (odd verses unison or solo)
Genre: SacredCanon

Language: French
Instruments: A cappella


Description: Polyphonic lai for three voices. The even verses are set as three-part canons.

External websites:

Original text and translations

French.png French text

Je ne cesse de prier
A ma dame chiere
Que mes maus veille aligier.
Mais si se tient chiere
Et tant la truis dure et fiere,
Sans amolliier,
Qu’adoucir de ma priere
Ne puis son dangier.

S’en veil une autre acointier
Qui joie pleniere
M’otriera de ligier
Et a bonne chiere,
Sans fin, sans amour legiere,
Sans amenuisier;
Ne joye qu’a li s’affiere
Ne puet homs trier.

Et où porroit on querir
La joie qui amenrir
Ne puet ne finer
Et qui ne fait que doubler
En joieus plaisir?
Tout li mondes, sans mentir,
N’en porroit finer,
Sans la dame qui n’a per
Amer et chierir.

Mais ame ne puet perir
N’a dampnation venir
Qui son temps user
En li servir et loer
Vuet sans repentir;
Car qui siens, sans retollir,
Vuet tous demourer,
En gloire l’estuet regner
Qui ne puet faillir.

C’est celle qui par ordonnance
De Parole, et par la puissance
D’Esperit Saint, qui ouvra en ce,
Et par devine pourvëance
Faite au commandement dou Pere,

Conçut vierge, sans violence,
Porta vierge, sans desplaisance,
Enfanta vierge, sans grevance,
Li Fil Dieu qui prist no semblance
Pour nous tous getter de misere.

Mais n’i ha point de difference,
Car sil trois font toute une essence,
Une vertus, une substance,
Un pooïr, une sapience:
Ci ha trop merveilleus mistere.

Et si n’en fais nulle doubtance,
Car c’est ma foy, c’est ma crëance,
C’est ma vie et ma soustance,
Par celle qui par excellance
Est fille au Pere et dou Fil mere.

Ces trois un a po de peinne,
Assez prouver puis:
Considere une fonteinne,
Le ruissel, la duis;
Ce sont trois, mais ces trois truis
Tout un, soit petite ou pleinne,
Soit par pintes ou par muis:
Par tous ces conduis
Est eaue d’un goust certeinne;
Tous seurs un suis.

He! Roÿne souvereinne,
Qui seur toutes luis
Plus cler que la tresmonteinne
Es obscures nuis,
Aussi l’iaue et li dous fruis
De vie prist char humeinne
Et fourme en tes costes vuis.
S’est bien hors d’annuis
Et de fortune mondeinne
Cils que tu conduis.

Et qui de ceste eaue prendroit
Et la mettoit par un temps froit
En un vaissel, elle prendroit
Et jaleroit, si qu’on feroit
De la glace une ymage;

Mais ja son goust n’en perderoit
Ne mueroit, qu’adès seroit
Eaue et nature d’eaue aroit.
Chascuns le voit et aperçcoit
Par le temps yvernage.

L’eaue de vie einsi venoit
Et descendoit en tes flans droit,
Que Sains Esperis amenoit
Et conduisoit, dont il formoit
Le bel, le bon, le sage,

Qui Fils de Dieu le Pere estoit,
Qui consentoit et qui voloit
Que forme et char humeinne aroit
Et qu'il morroit et getteroit
D'enfer l'umein lignage.

Mais ceste Trinité est en eternité,
En possibilite et en toute autre chose,
En sens, en qualité, en gloire, en verité,
Une seule unité en Dieu le Pere enclose,

Qui par douce pité, par vraie humilité
Nous ha tous respité, quant en toy, douce Rose,
Prist nostre humanité le Fils par amité.
Ce nous ha tous getté, dont Sathans ne repose.

De la duis le Pere nomme,
De la fonteinne le Fil
Qui vient dou Pere et fu homme,
Dou ruissel cler et gentil
Saint Esperit; c'est la somme.
Dout Pere et dou Fil vient il.
Ces siz sont trois, qui bien somme
A entendement soutil.

Mais mieus vorroit estre a Romme
Ou outre mer in esil
Ou getés dedens la Somme,
En flun Jourdain ou en Nil
Que croire riens que preudomme
Ne puist croire sans peril;
Car tout vaut il une pomme
Sans Dieu? Je di que nenil.

Et pour ce di que cil troy
De no foy
Te firent droit fondement,
Quant li Fils se ist en toy.
Car j'en voy
Parfait le Vieil Testament
Et fait le Saint Sacrement.
Ce m'aprent
Que la duis de nostre loy
Y es et de no sauvement
Proprement
La fonteinne, einsi le croy,

Ou chascuns boit qui ha soy,
Sans anoy:
Et qui pardurablement
Vuet vivre aveuc le grant roy
Lave soy
En ruissel qui en descent.
C'est ta frace vraiement
Qui s'estent
A tous ceux qui en recoy
Pleurent et plaignent souvent
Tendrement
De leur pechiés le desroy.

Pour ce pri,
Vierge, oÿ mon depri,
Car po cri,
Po descri,
Po pleur les pechiés
Qui sont en mi,
Vieil et endormi.
S'en fremi,
Car emmi
Mon cuer sont fichiés.

M'ame t'otri
Et doing sans detri,
Et te tri.
Seut tot tri.
Or soyés mes chiés
Et aveuc mi
Contre l'anemi,
Car ami
Ne demi
N'ay en mes meschiés.

Mais de tel confort
Com de plourer fort
Petit me confort,
Vierge, se ne me fais fort
Qu'apaiseras l'ire
De ton Fil, qu'au fort
Homs n'a si grant tort
Qui n'en soit ressort,
Quar a toy vie ne mort
Ne scet escondire.

Las! Or sui au port
De tout desconfort,
Quant mes maus recort;
Et si fort me desconfort
Que ne le puis dire,
Car pechiés me mort;
Anemies ne dort,
Ens fait son effort
Qu'en livre de mort, moy mort,
Me puist faire escrire.

He! fonteinne de concorde,
La duis de misericorde,
Ruissaus qui leve econcorde
Meins pecheurs, fluns de douçour,
Oÿ ma clamour:

Fais que pechiés ne me morde,
Si qu'anemis ne m'encorde
De ses craus et de sa corde,
Car en toy sont tuit mi tour
Et me retour.

Fais tant que de li m'estorde;
Car il n'a maison ne borde
Qui vils, sale, obscure et orde
Ne soit, pleinne de puour
Et de laidour;

Et mes cuers vuet et t'acorde
Que ton dous salut recorde,
Tant que de li naisse et sorde
Une fonteinne de plour
Et de tristour,

Pour laver et nettoier
En telle maniere
Les vices qui de pechier
Me donnent matiere.
Vierge, que ta grace acquiere,
Si que trebuchier
Ne me puist en sa chaudiere
Sathans n'accrochier.

Encore te vueil supplier,
Roÿne et lumiere
Des angles, qu'a ton Fil chier
Ta douceur requiere
Que son ire ne nous fiere
Au jour darrenier,
Et la joie qu'est entiere
Nous vueille ottroier.

English.png English translation

I never stop beseeching
my dear lady
to lighten my burden of woe,
but she keeps herself so distant
and I find her so harsh and proud,
without bending,
that with my pleading
I cannot soften her resistance.

And so I will go to another lady
who fullness of joy
will grant me easily
and cheerfully,
without end, without fickleness,
without fading away;
the only joy that one can choose
is the joy that lies in her.

And where can one seek
this joy which cannot lessen
and cannot end
and which can only multiply
in joyful pleasure?
No one in the world, in truth,
can achieve this
without loving and cherishing
this peerless lady.

But no soul can perish
or be damned
which spends its time
in serving and praising her
with no change of heart,
for whoever remains, without going back,
entirely hers
will abide in glory
which cannot fail.

It is she who, through the command
of the Word, and by the power
of the Holy Spirit, which worked in this way,
and by divine providence
at the decree of the Father,

Conceived while a virgin, without blemish,
bore a child as a virgin, without distress,
gave birth as a virgin, without pain,
to the Son of God who took our likeness
to save us all from misery.

But there is in fact no difference,
because these three comprise one essence,
one virtue, one substance,
one power, one wisdom:
this is truly a marvelous mystery.

And if I have not the least doubt about it,
this is because it is my faith; it is my belief,
it is my life and my support,
through her who by excellence
is daughter to the Father and mother to the Son.

These three with little difficulty
I can prove to be one:
consider a fountain,
a stream, a source;
these are three, but these three things
are one, whether small or great,
flowing by pints or by gallons:
by each channel
it is water, of one taste alone,
and of this I am completely sure.

Ah! sovereign Queen,
who shines above all
brighter than the Pole Star
on dark nights:
just like water, the sweet fruit
of life took human flesh
and shape in your empty womb.
Indeed they are freed from trouble
and worldly care
who are guided by you.

And if you took this water
and put it, during cold weather,
in a vessel, it would set
and freeze, so that one could make
of the ice a sculpture;

But it would never lose its taste
or change it, for henceforth it would be
water, and have the nature of water;
anyone can see this and observe it
in winter time.

Thus the water of life came
and descended directly into your body,
which the Holy Spirit guided
and channeled, from which it formed
the beautiful, the good, the wise man

Who was the Son of God the Father,
who consented and desired
to take human form and flesh,
and who died and released
the human race from hell.

But this Trinity is, in eternity,
in power, and in every other thing,
in sense, in quality, in glory, in truth,
one single Unity in God the Father,

Who through sweet pity, through true humility,
has saved us all, when in you, sweet Rose,
the Son took our humanity out of love for us.
Thus we were all delivered, and Satan confounded.

The source is called the Father;
the fountain is the Son
who came from the Father and was made man;
the clear and gentle stream
is the Holy Spirit; that is all.
It proceeds from the Father and the Son.
These six are three, which adds up
by subtle thought.

But I would rather be in Rome
or overseas in exile
or thrown into the Somme,
into the River Jordan, or the Nile,
than believe anything that a good person
should not believe without risking his soul;
for is anything worth a fig
without God? I say certainly not.

And so I say that these three
made you the true foundation
of our faith
when the Son entered into you.
For I see in this
the Old Testament fulfilled
and the Holy Sacrament accomplished.
This teaches me
that you are the source of our law
and of our salvation;
truly
the fountain—thus I believe—

Where everyone who is thirsty may drink
without hindrance:
and whoever wishes to live forever
with the great King,
let him be washed
in the stream which descends from you.
It is your grace, truly
which extends
to all those who, in receiving it,
weep and bewail often
bitterly
the folly of their sins.

For this reason I beg you,
Virgin, hear my prayer,
for I little acknowledge,
little perceive,
little lament the sins
which are in me,
old and slumbering.
I shudder at them,
for in the depths
of my heart they are fixed.

I offer you my soul,
and give it to you without delay,
and choose you.
Above all I choose you.
Now be my refuge
and remain with me
against the Devil,
for no other friend
or help
do I have in my misery.

But such comfort
as weeping greatly
comforts me but little,
Virgin, if you do not assure me
that you will appease the wrath
of your Son, so that in the end
one may not commit so great a sin
that there be no remedy,
for authority over life and death
he will not deny to you.

Alas! now I am at the mercy
of every distress
when I recall my sins:
and so greatly do they torment me
that I cannot express it,
for sins are gnawing at me;
the Devil does not sleep
but rather puts forth every effort,
so that into the Book of Death, at my own death,
I will be written.

Ah! fountain of concord,
source of mercy,
stream which raises and reconciles
many sinners, river of sweetness,
hear my crying:

Grant that sins may not gnaw at me,
that the Devil may not ensnare me
with his hooks and his rope;
for in you lies all my going out
and my coming in.

Grant that I escape from him;
for there is no house or dwelling
which is not vile, dirty, dark and horrid,
full of stink
and ugliness,

And my heart desires and longs
to remember your sweet grace,
so that from me may grow and spring
a fountain of tears
and grief,

To wash and cleanse
in such a way
the vices which
give me cause to sin.
Virgin, may I gain your grace,
so that Satan may not topple me
into his cauldron
nor drag me there.

Again I wish to beseech you,
Queen and light
of the angels, that, in your sweetness,
you ask of your dear Son
that his wrath may not smite us
on the Day of Judgment,
and that fullness of joy
he may be willing to grant us.